After 3 days, 11 films (+ one short), several parties, quite a few pints of beer, a wealth of spoken words with old and new friends, lots of music, and a personal ‘drama’ (my car was towed on Friday night), fatigue is spreading throughout my body – eyes and mind. I need to eat a proper breakfast. I need to go slow. I need to be silent. And alone for a little while. I’ll skip my 10:30am film.
Ready to shower, I discover that I have no hot water. The desire for slowness on this Sunday morning becomes a frantic rush to make it on time for my first film once I have ignited the pilot light and water is warm again. I arrive a few minutes before the movie starts. Not enough to get a decent seat if the venue is The Blue Note. Mostly if the film has subtitles – which was, indeed, the case, at least for some of the dialogues (fortunately, the foreign language was Spanish, which I can understand).
Who is Dayani Cristal? by Marc Silver, with Mexican film star Gael García Bernal (who also co-produced the film), looks at the (often deadly) illegal migration from Mexico into the United States. An unidentified male corpse, with the name ‘Dayani Cristal’ tattooed on his chest, is found in the Arizona Sonora desert. He’s one of more than 200 bodies discovered by the border patrol in the desert in 2010, many of which remain unidentified. The specificity of the tattoo helps finding this young man’s family from Honduras. Once we have their interviews/recounts, the investigative, scientific tone of the search (a sort of CSI of the border) is lost in favor of melodrama (further highlighted by the score soundtrack in these personal sections). Then, there is a scruffy-looking Garcia Bernal pretending to be that young man on his long journey. In these re-actments, we see what the migrants deal with, lost between a breathtaking scenery – looking for and finding help – and the constant fear of death. I liked the use of fictionalization within the investigative journalism, although Bernal brings a little bit too much ‘charm’ to the immigrant’s odyssey. And perhaps there are too many genres mixed in this documentary, making it loose the focus on what should have been the center of the film: an actual problematizion of the migrant workers’ destiny. I agree with this review that “The film is at its best when dealing with the immediate aftermath of the body’s discovery.” Stunning shots of the desert. Rating: 3.5/5
Amidst the numerous journalistic films with a social/political touch that I’ve chosen this year, Cutie and the Boxer provided a (much needed) change of pace. However, I was not much impressed by Zachary Heinzerling’s debut.
Cutie and the Boxer is a bio-pic of Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, two Japanese artists who meet and marry in New York in the early 1970s. Ushio is an action painter, who created most of his art by punching with boxing gloves, now trying to find ways of establishing his artistic legacy. His wife, Noriko, “finally found her voice in a series of humorous paintings accompanied by text explaining the trials of being married to an egotistical alcoholic” (quote from here). Heinzerling’s documentary is more about their relationship than their art. Sure, they’re ‘cute’, but why not filming just a cute couple then? Rating: 2.5/5
Ushio and Noriko were present at the screening and came on stage during the Q&As. I was surprised that Ushio, after 40 years in the United States, needed an interpreter to help with the questions (and he answered in Japanese). Afterwards, Ushio gave a live demonstration of (his form of) action painting in a nearby parking lot. This was cool! And after punching the white canvas, he started punching the T-shirts of people who approached him.
And speaking of art, during T/F local and national artists build installations in the streets and in the halls of the theaters, aligning with the year’s theme. This year the festival’s motif was The Collective Architecture of the Impossible, and my favorite sculpture was California-based artist Yulia Pinkuservich’s Stilted in Alley A. Here’s a few images (and additional links to follow for more on T/F).
(Don’t forget that the ‘Art & Design’ section of your catalog provides description of all artworks).
And now it’s time for the Closing Night Reception at the Missouri Theater preceding the closing film, No by Pablo Larraín. Not strictly a documentary but falling in that ‘fictional truth’ – with authentic footage – that T/F also embraces (ergo, the festival name), Oscar-nominated No is a political film with a light heart. I really enjoyed it. Rating: 5/5. You can read a review here (I know, this is lazy, to link to another review. But this festival goer is really tired at this point).
Then, busker feast! Some of the buskers who have delighted our days by playing before each screening, in music shows at bars, and throughout town get together in the hall of the Missouri theater for a jamming session – while, of course, more Schlafly beer is served. Not to be missed!